Writings: As fire ants continue to spread, Fire Ant Program spreads tall tales in 'Fire ant news' March 2023.

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As fire ants continue to spread, Biosecurity Queensland spreads tall tales in ‘Fire ant news’, published by the National Fire Ant Eradication Program in March 2023.

Tall tale: Our native battlers – the science behind their journey.

‘Native ants face a far greater battle in their fight against fire ants than the potential effects of fire ant treatment.

In one of our scientific studies, Effect of Broadcast Baiting on Abundance Patterns of Red Imported Fire Ant and Key Local Ant genera at Long Term Monitoring Sites in Brisbane Australia 2014, scientist collected data from 60 sites and discovered that whilst some native species showed a decline in their numbers immediately following treatment, once the fire ants have been removed from the area the population of native ants bounces back rapidly.’

Fact check:

The paper does not report how many sites had also been injected with a toxic insecticide as well as the broadcast baiting, and does not report that the only sixty of 905 treated sites were selected for the study.

Tall tale: Minister gives technology the thumbs up.

‘Dogs and drones are how we’re looking to use innovation to continue protecting Australia from fire ants were the focus of conversation on a recent visit from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. (Mark Furner).’

Fact check: Trials with dogs found they detected only 10% of nests and are mainly used to check treated nests, which could be done by poking the nest with a stick. Trials of aerial surveillance show it identifies rocks and cow pats as nests and misses actual fire ant nests.

Tall tale:  Fire ant treatment is safe, planned and the best in the world. Australia is the only country focused on eradicating fire ants and we are using the best available methods to do so.

Fact check: There is not a scrap of scientific evidence it was EVER feasible to eradicate the well-entrenched fire ant infestations found in south-east Queensland in 2001. Scientific advice has always been for a tight containment program.

No country that has been invaded by fire ants has ever eradicated them.

The decision to mount an eradication program was a political one to attract national funding, not a scientific one.

Tall tale: Moving organic materials interstate? Don’t spread fire ants.

‘Fire ants …can be moved long distances by people who transport organic materials such as soil, hay, manure and potted plants.    Fire ant biosecurity zones are in place to prevent people from spreading fire ants when they carry these restricted materials.’

Fact check: The 2019 program auditor noted the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014 provides for regulations to control the movement of fire ant carriers and penalty infringements notices for non-compliance, but the program had failed to implement regulations to control the human assisted spread of fire ants.  

Consequently, producers of organic materials for inter-state markets must now comply with individual state movement regulations because the National Fire Ant Eradication Program has none.

The fire ant infestation is now twenty times worse in 2023 than in 2001: up from 40,000ha to over 800,00ha and spreading inter-state. The timeframe has blown out from 5 years to twenty-two years, so far. The budget has blown out of $123.4m to getting close to $1b. Time to hold Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mark Furner, to account.

22nd March 2023